El Chapo or Pablo Escobar

I wrote before about Pablo Escobar and how his infamous “Plato or Plomo” (silver or lead). That made him, in my eyes, a savvy negotiator. I do not support illegal activities and the killing, but I am fascinated by how bad, and good people negotiate. Just like I despise Donald Trump, but his book The Art of the deal provides relevant insights.

So, in the villains’ negotiations series, I introduce villain #2 El Chapo Guzman. And as I research the topic, I realise that the timing is excellent! Because he is on trial right now in NYC, and it is a tourist attraction!

El Chapo. In case you are not watching the series on Netflix, El Chapo was once ranked the 41st wealthiest man in the world! How they calculated how rich he was, well probably the best guess, just like how they derive the wealth of everyone else on that list. Still, if you are on Forbes radar, you are RICH. And if you are rich through drug smuggling, you have left bodies behind you. In the Netflix series, the estimate is between 2000 and 3000 bodies. Again, no clue how accurate this is, but it is a lot if one loses track of killings!

Timeline refresh. First, there was the Medellin Cartel, then the Gentlemen of Cali and then the Guadalajara cartel before giving us El Chapo Guzman.

Beside all the atrocities, what did he do right, negotiation-wise?

  • Explicit messages: As clear as it gets. The shipment does not arrive, you do not live to see another day. That way there are two options. The shipment arrives, or you die trying.
  • Consistency: No (good) surprises. No variations. It is always the same outcome if you do not deliver. And he made sure there are plenty of witnesses to spread the word!
  • Patience: Make time work for you. Understand how to leverage it. During one of the episodes, they show how many times he had to try to get his wife and children out and how he will abort the plan if everything was not perfect.
  • Unpredictable: “I’ll be where they would never expect me to be” this is how he evaded the Marines who looked for him for a long time.
  • Collaborate: Partner only when you have to. And when you are the world largest drug exporter, you probably need to partner with a lot of people.

I am fascinated by how villains use negotiation skills perfectly.  With this type of skills, El Chapo could have been a very legit and powerful man. Yes he is a psychopath. but so are 1 out of 100 people in the world, and the number is much higher among CEO’s. oh yeah, I’ll close on that to let it sink…